In 1964, California State University, Northridge was the first university to offer integrated programs for Deaf students, and the first to provide professional interpreters anywhere in the world; just a few years later, CSUN became the first to establish Deaf Studies as a discipline.
Today, 50 years later, thanks to the vision and the leadership of the National Center on Deafness, CSUN’s program is one of the largest of its kind in the western United States and a model program of excellence regionally, nationally and internationally. The NCOD recently celebrated its 50th anniversary with a series of events including an art exhibit, Deaf college leaders conference, and a gala that recognized educators, community leaders, alumni and businesses for their support.
“NCOD serves to advance the university’s mission by providing Deaf and hard-of-hearing students the confidence, the skills and education to succeed and make a difference in the world,” said President Dianne F. Harrison, at the center’s 50th anniversary gala on Nov. 15 at CSUN. Harrison, who welcomed attendees to the event using sign language, said the number and caliber of guests in attendance are a testimony to the “deep and lasting impact the program has made on many people.”
Those in attendance at the gala included T. Alan Hurwitz, president of Gallaudet University; Gerald Buckley, president of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology; Christopher Wagner, president of the National Association of the Deaf; Claudia Gordon, special assistant in the White House and the first known Deaf African-American woman to become an attorney; award-winning actress Marlee Matlin; and Linda Bove of Sesame Street fame.
“Our anniversary celebration really highlighted the work we’ve been doing for more than 50 years,” said Roz Rosen, director of the NCOD. “With academic and career advising and with quality access services, our students thrive at CSUN and become success stories.”
The seeds of the NCOD were planted more than 50 years ago at San Fernando Valley State College. The National Leadership Training Program (NLTP) was established on campus in 1962 by a federal grant to train administrative personnel concerned with rehabilitation and education of Deaf people. NLTP projects introduced innovations in areas such as community services and communication technologies.
In 1964, NLTP admitted its first two Deaf students and provided them with interpreters and note-takers for full access to university classes. By the 1970-1971 academic year, the entire curriculum of the college was opened to Deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Services provided to ensure accessibility were direct communications in academic advising, interpreting, note-taking and tutoring.
The Deaf and hard-of-hearing student population grew steadily during the 1970s, as did the need for qualified interpreters and note-takers. The Center on Deafness was formally established in 1972 as an administrative coordinating unit for the Deaf programs on campus.
At the same time, campus services for Deaf students were expanded to enable CSUN programs to meet student service needs. By 1978, the achievements of NLTP and NCOD’s alumni and students had begun to have national impact and the name of the Center on Deafness was changed to the National Center on Deafness.
With continued success came the need for a building more consistent with the status and character of the program. In 1989, the NCOD celebrated the grand opening of the Jeanne M. Chisholm Hall. Today, 200 Deaf and hard-of-hearing students attend CSUN each semester and register through the National Center on Deafness to receive services such as interpreting, captioning, note-taking, tutoring and academic advisement, in addition to NCOD orientation programs and direct communication courses in U100, basic English and Math. Additionally, NCOD offers leadership opportunities for Deaf and hard-of-hearing students and in-service training for professional interpreters.
“Coming to CSUN opened up a lot of opportunities for me,” said Janette Duran ’08 (Child Development). “I came out of my shy shell and blossomed.
“CSUN NCOD gave me the confidence I’d been hiding inside of me,” continued Duran, who is Deaf and now works as a counselor at a school for the Deaf. “Without their [NCOD’s] services, I wouldn’t have made it.”